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Reforesting seagrass meadows: the green belt from the Mediterranean to the Baltic Sea

Three European marine conservation foundations have joined forces to strengthen international marine protection measures and well-being of the seas. The coalition aims to increase the number of seagrass meadows from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean. 

Three European marine conservation foundations John Nurminen foundation (Finland), La Fondation de la Mer (France) and La Fondazione MEDSEA (Italy) are working together to strengthen international marine protection measures. Together the organizations form a coalition, which first concrete initiative launched in 2023 is to restore coastal seagrass habitats and form an underwater "green belt" from the Mediterranean to the Baltic coast.   

Underwater seagrass meadows are vital to marine biodiversity. They provide food and shelter for hundreds of species on the coastlines of Europe from northern latitudes to southern regions of North America and Eurasia. The roots of these meadows bind bottom sediment, which reduces erosion and turbidity in the water. Water quality is improved too, as the meadows bind nutrients from the water. Seagrass meadows are also effective carbon sinks.  

In the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea, the seagrass meadows are formed by mainly different species (Posidonia oceanica in Mediterranean, Zostera marina in the Baltic), but they can be restored with similar actions: by planting seedlings in new, suitable growing habitats. This year all three foundations will restore seagrass meadows, some in co-operation with local authorities.   

In Finland the Baltic Seagrass Project will be planting 1000 seedlings of eelgrass on the coast of the Gulf of Finland during 2023. Due to the low salinity of the northern Baltic Sea, eelgrass doesn’t form seeds on the Finnish coast, and, therefore, all eelgrass seedlings must be collected from the natural eelgrass meadows. The goal of the Baltic Seagrass project's first plantings in Finland is to establish a flourishing eelgrass meadow, which could also be used as a source of seedlings for future plantings in the coming years.   

“Together we create more impact in restoring marine nature. This joint effort will bring us closer to a healthier blue planet. Seagrass meadows are an important habitat for marine life in the world’s oceans and our Baltic Sea. So, this is a great chance to engage in collaboration that will increase marine biodiversity”, says John Nurminen Foundation’s CEO, Annamari Arrakoski-Engardt.   

The Fondation de la Mer supports high-impact, scientifically validated projects aimed at protecting and restoring marine biodiversity. Two Posidonia transplantation projects are supported in the Mediterranean, resulting in the transplantation of 28,000 plants. “Ongoing scientific monitoring shows a success rate of 80%. Our new missions planned for 2023 will restore several hectares. There is also a project to restore an eelgrass meadow is also underway on the French Atlantic coast”, highlights Alexandre Iaschine, Délégué Général from the Foundation de la Mer. 
Marine reforestation activities in Italy continue with the goal of reaching 1,000,000 Posidonia Oceanica seedlings (endemic species of the Mediterranean) replanted within the next decade throughout the Mediterranean. The ambitious activity is being driven by the MEDSEA Foundation which, in the context of its "A marine Forest to save the Mediterranean". The latest efforts have been focused off the coast of Villasimius, within the Marine Protected Area of Capo Carbonara.  

“The meadows of Posidonia Oceanica are in decline throughout the Mediterranean and one of the main causes is due to human impact, in particular trawl fishing practiced illegally near the coast and incorrect anchoring can create discontinuities which - in the long run - can contribute to degradation of the surrounding meadows”, explains president of the MEDSEA Foundation Alessio Satta. According to Satta, by restoring marine meadows, we accelerate recovery times and strengthen the natural defenses of ecosystems even under conditions of stress due to climate change. 

This Finnish-Italian-French conservation coalition aim to strengthen the common understanding of marine conservation by raising awareness, talking about the life in the oceans and its importance to biodiversity and human life.  


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